Longtime comic book & fantasy artist Frank Thorne passed away on the morning of March 7th at 90 years old. Marilyn Thorne, his wife of many years, later passed away that afternoon.
Thorne’s career in comic books actually began back in 1948. He was a regular contributor to Dell Comics throughout the 1950s and 60s. From 1968 to 1972 Thorne was the artist on the Western adventure series Tomahawk published by DC Comics. He drew several comics for the short-lived publisher Atlas / Seaboard in the mid 1970s.
Thorne’s career entered what could be regarded as a “second act” in late 1975. Red Sonja, the sexy female barbarian created by Roy Thomas & Barry-Windsor Smith (inspired by the Robert E. Howard character Red Sonya of Rogatino), was given her own solo series beginning with Marvel Feature volume 2 #1, cover-dated November 1975. The first issue was written by Thomas and drawn by Dick Giordano. Paired with writer Bruce Jones, Thorne took over drawing Red Sonja in Marvel Feature with issue #2 (January 1976).
Thorne remained on Marvel Feature thru #7, the final issue. It was immediately followed by an ongoing bimonthly Red Sonja series written by Roy Thomas & Clara Noto. Thorne penciled, inked, lettered and colored the first 11 issues (January 1977 to September 1978), producing stunning and exquisitely detailed work.
Due to his striking rendition of Red Sonja, Thorne became very well-regarded and much in-demand for his depictions of beautiful women. He subsequently created a number of erotic fantasy series. Thorne’s sexy stories & artwork were also published in Heavy Metal, National Lampoon and Playboy.
Thorne’s book Drawing Sexy Woman, published by Fantagraphics in 2000, was an informal autobiography of sorts, with his recollections complemented by several dozen illustrations of lovely ladies drawn specifically for the book. It’s an interesting an offbeat look back by Thorne at his life and career.
I was very sorry to hear that comic book artist Steve Lightle had passed away on January 8th. I have been a fan of his work for many years.
Steve Lightle was born on November 19, 1959 in the state of Kansas. Growing up he was a huge fan of DC Comics, especially Legion of Super-Heroes. As he recounted in a 2003 interview published in the excellent book The Legion Companion by Glen Cadigan from TwoMorrows Publishing:
“One of the oldest drawings that I’ve got was done in second grade, and it was a massive Legion fight scene that I probably did sitting at my desk when I should’ve been doing my work.”
In the early 1980s Lightle was in DC’s new talent program. His first published work was actually for Bill Black’s Americomics / AC Comics line in 1984, where he drew a handful of covers. Right from the start on these early pieces Lightle was already doing impressive work.
Lightle’s work soon after appeared in DC’s New Talent Showcase anthology, and in fill-in issues of Batman and the Outsiders and World’s Finest.
Less than a year into his professional career Lightle was asked by editor Karen Berger to take over as penciler on Legion of Super-Heroes from the outgoing co-plotter & penciler Keith Giffen, who after a stellar run felt burned out drawing the title, with its cast of thousands and myriad futuristic alien worlds. A surprised Lightle was happy to accept the assignment. His first issue was Legion of Super-Heroes volume 3 #3, cover-dated October 1984, which was co-plotted by Paul Levitz & Keith Giffen and scripted by Levitz. Lightle was inked by Larry Mahlstedt, who he would be paired with on most of his mid-1980s run.
In only his second issue Lightle has to draw the death of Karate Kid, one of his favorite members of the team. He did a superb job rendering this tragic event, as well as in the next issue where Princess Projecta executed Nemesis Kid for the murder of her husband. The storytelling on these sequences was stunning, really bringing to life the tragedy of Levitz & Giffen’s plots.
Lightle only penciled Legion for about a year, from #3 to #16, with a couple of other artists providing fill-ins during that time. Lightle, with his highly-detailed art style, was not an especially fast penciler, and that played a role in his departure.
As he explained in The Legion Companion:
“[T]he fact is, I took myself off the Legion… I had convinced myself that my inability to do everything I wanted in every issue was somehow meaning that I was delivering less than a hundred percent, and therefore I shouldn’t be on the book…. So the funny thing is, looking back, I can’t even understand my thinking on this.”
Although his run on Legion was relatively short, Lightle nevertheless had a huge influence on the series. He created the Legion’s first two totally non-humanoid members, Tellus and Quislet, and designed new costumes for several established characters.
Lightle also remained on as the cover-artist for Legion, drawing nearly every cover for volume 3 until it ended in 1989 with issue #63, as well as several covers of the reprint series Tales of the Legion and for the four issue Legion spin-off Cosmic Boy. Lightle also co-plotted and penciled “Back Home in Hell” in issue #23, a story which saw a traumatized Mon-El forced to return to the Phantom Zone when the serum that protects his Daxamite physiology from lead poisoning wears off.
Lightle is regarded by many Legion fans, myself included as one of the series’ definitive artists.
Following his departure from Legion of Super-Heroes, Lightle penciled the first five issues of the Doom Patrol reboot in 1987 and covers for various DC titles, plus several entries in their Who’s Who series.
In 1988 Lightle also began working for Marvel Comics, drawing a fill-in issue of X-Factor and becoming the cover artist for the reprint series Classic X-Men, an assignment that lasted from #30 (Feb 1989) to #56 (Feb 1991).
Yesterday I was attempting to recall when I first saw Steve’s work. I *think* it was when I bought Classic X-Men #39 in the Fall of 1989. Classic X-Men was in the middle of reprinting the epic “The Dark Phoenix Saga” by Claremont, Byrne & Austin from a decade earlier. I was 13 years old, and the dynamic Wolverine cover by Lightle immediately grabbed me. I missed the next issue, but a couple months later my parents got me #41, which had another amazing Lightle cover. I immediately became a fan of his work.
Soon after I saw Lightle’s cover artwork on Avengers Spotlight and Excalibur. He also drew a number of Marvel Universe trading cards.
In the early 1990s I was beginning to get into DC Comics, and one of the invaluable sources of information on the oft-confusing post-Crisis universe was the 16 issue loose leaf edition of Who’s Who in the DC Universe edited by Michael Eury.
Lightle illustrated several profile pics for Who’s Who, including a dramatic rendition of Ayla Ranzz, the former Lightning Lass, in the “Five Years Later” era of the Legion. I don’t know if Lightle ever drew any other Legion-related artwork set during this period, but now I wish he had. It’s a very striking image. He rendered Ayla as a beautiful, athletic figure in dynamic motion.
In 1992 Lightle’s work began appearing regularly in the bi-weekly anthology series Marvel Comics Presents. He drew an eight part Wolverine and Typhoid Mary serial written by Ann Nocenti, which was followed by a Ghost Rider and Typhoid Mary serial by the same team. The storyline culminated in the intriguing and thought-provoking “Bloody Mary: A Battle of the Sexes” by Nocenti, Lightle and co-artist Fred Harper in MCP #150-151 (March 1994).
Lightle’s artwork, with his innovative and unconventional layouts, and its sense of atmosphere, was incredibly well suited to depicting the ongoing story of Typhoid Mary and her fractured psyche. On several chapters coloring was provided by Steve’s wife Marianne Lightle.
Lightle was also the regular cover artist on Flash for DC between 1997 and 2000. He produced a series of very dramatic images during that three year run.
In the late 1990s I *finally* discovered, via back issues, Lightle’s work on Legion of Super-Heroes from the mid 1980s. I immediately recognized he was one of the all-time great artists on that series. Around this time I was fortunate enough to get to know both Steve and Marianne on social media.
I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes looks the Lightles gave of their incredible work for the all too short-lived Cross Plains Comics, which adapted and was inspired by the works of writer Robert E. Howard.
Among the projects Steve and Marianne worked on for Cross Plains was Red Sonja: A Death in Scarlet. Steve co-wrote the story with veteran Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja writer Roy Thomas, and penciled & inked the issue. Marianne Lightle colored it under the pen name Tayreza.
Red Sonja: A Death In Scarlet was intended to be a three issue miniseries, but unfortunately only the first issue ever came out. Nevertheless, it worked well as a stand-alone story. The artwork by Lightle was magnificent. I definitely wish he had been given more opportunities to draw Red Sonja.
It’s been observed by Legion of Super-Heroes fans that a number of the creators associated with the series have found themselves repeatedly drawn back to working on it throughout the years. At one point someone might have even jokingly referred to it as “Legionnaire’s Disease.”
Whatever the case, Lightle was one of those creators who found himself often returning to the teen heroes from 1000 years in the future. He drew the covers for the four issue miniseries Legends of the Legion in 1998, an Umbra solo story in The Legion #24 (Nov 2003), a cover for the Star Trek / Legion crossover (Nov 2011) and several covers for the New 52 reboot of Legion of Super-Heroes, along with an Invisible Kid solo story in issue #8 (June 2012), plus a few other Legion-related items.
Over the last two decades Lightle was working on several creator-owned web comic book series, issued under the umbrella of Lunatik Press. Among the series Lightle created was the space opera Justin Zane, the martial arts adventure Peking Tom, and the sexy funny animal series Catrina Fellina.
Steve and Marianne Lightle lived in the Kansas City region most of their lives, where they raised their children, and where their grandchildren now live. Throughout my interactions with Steve and Marianna on various social media platforms over the past two decades they always impressed me as genuinely good people. Steve’s death at the age of 61 from cardiac arrest brought on by Covid-19 is a tragedy. My thoughts go out to Marianne and her family in this difficult time.
There is currently a fundraiser on Go Fund Me to help the Lightle family with Steve’s medical bills and other expenses. If you are able, please contribute. Thank you.
The challenge: Pick a subject and find a different artist every day for that subject. I chose “coffee.” From the work of how many comic book artists can I find examples of people drinking coffee? I post these daily on Facebook, and collect them together here.
31) Rich Buckler & Joe Sinnott
“The Mind of the Monster” from Giant-Size Super-Stars #1, penciled by Rich Buckler, inked by Joe Sinnott, written by Gerry Conway, lettered by Artie Simek, and colored by Petra Goldberg, published by Marvel Comics with a May 1974 cover date.
The Incredible Hulk leaps into Manhattan and passes out in a deserted alley. Transforming back into Bruce Banner, the cursed scientist heads over to the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building headquarters, hoping Reed Richards can find a cure for his condition. Only Ben Grimm, the Thing, is home, but he welcomes Bruce, telling him “Guy’s like us’ve gotta stick together.”
The Thing asks the frazzled Banner “Ya want some java?” A grateful Banner accepts, and the Thing brews him a cup of coffee using some weird-looking Kirby-tech. “Don’t look at me, Banner — it’s one’a Stretcho’s dohickeys.” Yeah, leave it to Reed Richards to take something as simple as a coffee maker and transform it into a ridiculously complicated device!
The Think lets slip that Reed was recently working on a “psi-amplifier” to restore his lost humanity. An eager Banner decides that with a few modifications the device can cure both of them in one shot. Unfortunately they don’t wait for Reed to return before proceeding with the experiment, and of course something goes wrong. Next thing you know, we have another epic battle between the Hulk and the Thing, but with a twist: the Thing’s mind is in the body of the Hulk, and vise versa. Hilarity ensues… hilarity and several million dollars worth of property damage.
As explained by editor Roy Thomas in a text piece, Giant-Size Super-Stars was a monthly oversized title that would rotate through three features: the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Conan the Barbarian. After this issue was released Marvel changed their plans. Spider-Man and Conan both received their own quarterly Giant-Size series, and Giant-Size Super-Stars also became quarterly, renamed Giant-Size Fantastic Four with issue #2.
The creators behind “The Mind of the Monster” were the regular Fantastic Four team: writer Gerry Conway, penciler Rich Buckler, and inker Joe Sinnott. They all do good work on this entertaining tale of swapped identities and smashed buildings. Buckler does a fine job showing via facial expressions and body language that the Thing and the Hulk have switched bodies. Longtime FF inker Sinnott does his usual great work finishing the art.
32) Rick Burchett
Presenting a double dose of caffeinated cliffhangers starring those two-fisted aviators the Blackhawks! Action Comics Weekly #632 is cover-dated December 1987, and Blackhawk #2 is cover-dated April 1989. Both stories are by the creative team of artist Rick Burchett, writer Martin Pasko, letterer Steve Haynie, and colorist Tom Ziuko, published by DC Comics.
I was sad to hear that longtime comic book writer Martin Pasko had passed away on May 10th at the age of 65. Among the numerous characters Pasko worked on was the revamp of the Blackhawks conceived by Howard Chaykin. Pasko chronicled the aviation adventures of Janos Prohaska and Co in serials published in Action Comics Weekly, and then in an all-too-short lived Blackhawk ongoing series.
Pasko was paired with the great, underrated artist Rick Burchett. I’ve always enjoyed Burchett’s art. His style is simultaneously cartoony yet possessed of a sort of gritty verisimilitude (I hope I’m articulating that in an accurate manner). Pasko & Burchett chronicled the Blackhawk’s post World War II adventures which saw the ace pilots becoming embroiled in the Cold War anti-Communist activities of the newly-formed CIA.
Within the pages of the Action Comics Weekly #632, the Blackhawks have been tasked with transporting chemist Constance Darabont to West Berlin to pick up an experimental batch of LSD. Unfortunately for Prosahka and his team Constance is murdered in Berlin and replaced by Nazi war criminal Gretchen Koblenz. On the flight back the diabolical Gretchen spikes the Blackhawks’ coffee with the LSD, pulling a gun on Olaf Friedriksen when her deadly ruse is discovered!
Blackhawk #2 ends on a much less life-threatening note, but certainly one that is just as dramatic. Over morning coffee Janos and the Blackhawks’ assistant director Mairzey ponder the current whereabouts of the missing Natalie Reed, as well as wondering what will become of Natalie’s infant son. Mairzey tells Janos that she has been considering adopting the baby. Suddenly an unidentified figure enters the room and announces “I was always afraid to tell you this before… but I’m the father of Natalie’s baby…”
The Blackhawk serials written by Grell & Pasko and drawn by Burchett were among the best material to run in Action Comics Weekly. I’m happy they’ve finally been collected together with the excellent Blackhawk miniseries by Chaykin. Hopefully a second collected edition will reprint the ongoing series by Pasko & Burchett.
33) Jack Davis
Today’s art comes from “Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” in The Haunt of Fear #21, drawn by Jack Davis, written by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines, lettered by Jim Wroten, and colored by Marie Severin, published by EC Comics with a Sept-Oct 1953 cover date.
When I was a kid I preferred the sci-fi stories from Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, but as I got older I developed a taste for EC’s horror titles. I guess my dry, offbeat sense of humor came to align more closely with EC’s macabre pun-cracking horror hosts.
“Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” is the story of Ulric the Undying, who makes his fortune staging very public, very violent deaths from which he miraculously recovers each time. In a flashback, we see that Ulric was previously a nameless bum on skid row who was approached by Dr. Emil Manfred. Over a cup of coffee, Manfred claimed that he had discovered the secret of a cat’s nine lives, and offered to surgically transplant that ability into the bum, with the end goal of gaining wealth & fame. Manfred is successful and “Ulric the Undying” is created, but this being an EC horror story, of course things eventually take a very nasty turn for all involved.
Jack Davis was a frequent contributor to EC’s horror anthologies, illustrating many of their most famous, or perhaps infamous, stories. Davis was certainly adept at creating moody atmospheres perfectly suited to Al Feldstein’s scripts. His artwork was also appeared regularly in EC’s satirical comic books Mad and Panic. Following the demise of EC’s comic book line he drew trading cards for Topps. From the 1960s onward David, who was renowned for his caricatures, did a great deal of advertising work, movie posters and magazine covers. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 91.
34) Ross Andru & Frank Giacoia
Amazing Spider-Man #184, penciled by Ross Andru, inked by Frank Giacoia, written & edited by Marv Wolfman, lettered by John Costanza, and colored by Glynis Wein, published by Marvel Comics with a September 1978 cover date.
I recently learned of this storyline thanks to Brian Cronin of Comic Book Resources. In the previous issue Peter Parker had asked Mary Jane Watson to marry him, but she turned him down. A despondent Peter returned home, only to discover someone was waiting for him in his apartment! On the splash page of this issue, we discover who: Betty Brant, secretary to Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson, and Peter’s girlfriend from way back when. Betty, who is all glammed up, has let herself into Peter’s apartment and made herself a cup of coffee to await his return. Now that he’s home, Betty greets him with a very warm welcome.
There’s just one itsy-bitsy problem here: Betty married Ned Leeds a few weeks earlier, and she is supposed to be in Europe with him on their honeymoon.
Yeah, that’s the old Parker luck at work, all right. You propose to the woman you love but she turns you down, and when you return home you find your recently-married ex-girlfriend has broken into your place, raided your supply of coffee, and is looking to have a fling with you. Oy vey!
The subplot of Betty attempting to hook up with Peter, and Peter being very tempted in spite of that whole “just married” thing, went on for nearly a year. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that it all ends badly for poor Peter.
Penciling this tale of torrid emotions and pilfered caffeine is veteran comic book artist Ross Andru. After two decades of working for DC Comics on such titles as Wonder Woman, G.I. Combat, The Flash and Metal Men (the last which he co-created with writer Robert Kanigher), Andru came to Marvel in 1971. He penciled Amazing Spider-Man for five years, from 1973 to 1978; this was one of his last issues. Andru is paired here with well-regarded inker Frank Giacoia, who had previously embellished ASM during the early part of Andru’s half-decade run.
35) Alex Saviuk & Al Wlliamson
Web of Spider-Man #91, penciled by Alex Saviuk, inked by Al Williamson, written by Howard Mackie, lettered by Rick Parker, and colored by Bob Sharen, published by Marvel Comics with an August 1992 cover date.
Following up on our last entry, it’s another Spider-Man page featuring Peter Parker, Betty Brant, coffee and… oh no, Betty’s throwing herself at Peter again, isn’t she?
Okay, what’s actually going on here is that Betty has been working undercover on a story for the Daily Bugle. She’s investigating the organization belonging to the international assassin the Foreigner, the man behind the murder of her husband Ned Leeds. When Betty happens to run into Peter in the street she locks lips with him and drags him into a nearby diner so that she can give him the information she’s been collecting to pass on to Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Unfortunately the people who are following Betty see through her ruse and attack the coffee shop. What follows is Spider-Man spending the rest of the issue trading blows with a pair of the Foreigner’s armored goons in the java joint, which of course gets demolished. I hope the owners had their insurance premiums paid up!
Betty had spent a long time after her husband’s death traumatized & vulnerable. This was the beginning of a new direction for her, as she quit being Jonah’s secretary, became more assertive, and began a career as an investigative journalist for the Bugle.
The pencils are by Alex Saviuk, a really good artist who had a long run on Web of Spider-Man, from 1988 to 1994. I think Saviuk’s seven year stint on often gets overlooked because this was at the same time McFarlane, Larsen and Bagley were also drawing the character, and with their more dynamic, flashy styles they consequently receiving more attention. That is a shame, because Saviuk turned in solid, quality work on Web of Spider-Man. I enjoyed his depiction of the character.
As we can see from this page, Saviuk was also really good at rendering the soap opera and non-costumed sequences that are part-and-parcel of Peter Parker’s tumultuous personal life.
On the Facebook group Comic Book Historians, moderator Jim Thompson issued a “Call to Arms” to occupy and cheer up those of us who are working from home or unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The challenge: Pick a subject and find a different artist every day for that subject until May 1st (if not longer).
Jim had already been posting his 1000 Horses series for the past three years, each day showcasing artwork featuring a horse drawn by a different artist. Group member Mitchell Brown has done several shorter themes, most recently “My Enemy, Myself” featuring “evil twin” stories.
Mitchell sometimes collects together some of these FB posts on his entertaining & informative blog, the appropriately named A Dispensable List of Comic Book Lists. That inspired me to do the same with my blog. Here is the first installment in the Hopefully Almost Daily Comic Book Coffee. From the work of how many different artists can I find examples of people drinking coffee? I guess we will just have to see.
1) Shannon Wheeler
Let’s start off with the obvious choice: Too Much Coffee Man by Shannon Wheeler. Too Much Coffee Man first appeared as a self-published mini comic in 1991. In a 2011 interview with The New Yorker, Wheeler explained the origins of the series:
“In 1991, I drew an autobiographical cartoon for The Daily Texan with themes of alienation and loneliness. When I described it, people’s eyes glazed over. As a cheap gag, I started “Too Much Coffee Man.” I still address the same themes, except now there’s coffee. People like coffee.”
That’s certainly true. I’m drinking coffee at this very moment, right as I’m typing this sentence.
From such humble beginnings, Too Much Coffee Man has been in near-continuous publication for almost three decades. The series has enabled Wheeler to humorously explore existential angst, the lunacy of American society, and the dangers of overindulging in caffeine.
This artwork is from Common Grounds #5 from Image Comics, cover-dated June 2004. Script is by Troy Hickman, pencils by Dan Jurgens, inks by Al Vey, letters by the Dreamer’s Design team, and colors by Guy Major. I’m going to quote from my own previous blog post about Common Grounds…
Published by the Top Cow imprint of Image Comics in 2004, Common Grounds was a six issue miniseries written by Troy Hickman, with contributions from a number of extremely talented artists. It initially began life as a mini comic titled Holey Crullers that Hickman had worked on with Jerry Smith a few years before. Common Grounds was set around a nationwide chain of coffee shops that were frequented by costumed heroes & villains, a sort of Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for super-humans. The various Common Grounds stores serve as “neutral territory” where both crime-fighters and criminals can gather peaceably to enjoy a cup of joe and some doughnuts.
Hickman and his artistic collaborators introduce a cast who, on the surface, are expies for famous DC and Marvel characters. Hickman utilizes these to both pay homage to and deconstruct various storytelling structures and devices of the superhero genre. What I like about how Hickman goes about this is that he does so with a surprising lack of sarcasm or mockery. All of his jibes are of the good-natured sort, and he takes equal aim at the implausible silliness of the early Silver Age and the grim & gritty trappings of more recent decades. Common Grounds is simultaneously extremely funny and very poignant & serious.
I’m fairly confident I’ll be featuring work from some of the other Common Grounds art teams in future installments! It’s definitely due for another re-read.
3) Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott
If you’re going to talk comic books, sooner or later (probably sooner) you’re going to have to discuss Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Whatever the specific division of labor was (and all these decades it’s almost impossible to determine that precisely) the two of them working together in the 1960s created the majority of the Marvel Universe.
It all started in August 1961 with the Fantastic Four, a group who right from the start were characterized as much by their all-too-human disagreements as their super-powers. And no one was more dysfunctional than the gruff Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, who had been transformed by cosmic radiation into a monster.
Early on Ben Grimm very much straddled the line between hero and villain, and in those first few issues the rest of the FF found themselves wondering if the Thing, consumed by anger & self-loathing, might violently turn on them. However, the Thing gradually evolved into a character who was both gruff & comedic. We see one of the first hints of that here, in this scene from Fantastic Four #5, cover-dated July 1962. Ben is attempting to enjoy a cup of coffee, only to get razzed by literal hothead the Human Torch.
This is one of those pages that really makes me appreciate Kirby. I love the panel with the Thing holding the cup of coffee. This was when he still looked like orange oatmeal, very much a horribly disfigured individual, before he evolved into the almost cartoony orange brick form we are all familiar with. There’s this simultaneous humor and tragedy in that panel, as Ben Grimm, now this huge, grotesque figure, is almost daintily holding that coffee cup & saucer, a very human gesture, and a reminder of what he once was, and longs to be again.
Inks are by Joe Sinnott, his first time working on FF. Lee wanted Sinnott to become the regular inker, but soon after Sinnott received the assignment of drawing the biography of Pope John XXIII for Treasure Chest. Sinnott had inked about half a page of Kirby’s pencils for the next issue when he got the Treasure Chest job, and so had to mail the art back to Lee, who then assigned it to Dick Ayers. Sinnott fortunately got another opportunity work on the series in 1965, commencing with issue #44, and for the rest of the 1960s did a superb job inking Kirby. Sinnott remained on FF for the 15 years, inking / embellishing over several pencilers.
In a case of Early Installment Weirdness, we see the Torch reading an issue of The Incredible Hulk #1, which in the real world had come out two months earlier. It seems at this point in time Lee & Kirby had not quite decided if the Hulk occupied the same fictional universe as the FF.
4) Werner Roth & John Tartaglione
X-Men #31, cover-dated April 1967, was penciled by Werner Roth and inked by John Tartaglione. “We Must Destroy… the Cobalt Man!” was written by Roy Thomas.
X-Men in the 1960s was a title of, um, variable quality. Series creators Lee & Kirby both left fairly early on, and newcomer Roy Thomas sometimes struggled to find a successful direction for the book. Thomas was paired with penciler Werner Roth, who did good, solid work… but regrettably did not possess a certain dynamic quality necessary for Marvel-style superheroes. Also, I’m not sure if Tartaglione’s inks were an especially good fit for Roth’s pencils.
Roth was, however very well-suited to drawing romance, war and Westerns comic books. He certainly was adept at rendering lovely ladies, as seen in his exquisite art on Lorna the Jungle Queen in the 1950s, which he inked himself. So it’s not surprising that some of Roth’s best work on X-Men was when the main cast was in their civilian identities, and the soap-operatic melodrama was flying fast & furious. Witness the following…
Here we have two different coffee-drinking scenes on one page. At the top, Scott Summers, Warren Worthington and Jean Grey are hanging out with Ted Roberts and his older brother Ralph at a greasy spoon known as the Never-Say-Diner… really, Roy?!? Ted was a short-lived rival to Scott for Jean’s affections, and Ralph was (spoilers!) a short-lived villain named the Cobalt Man. Elsewhere, Hank McCoy and Bobby Drake have taken their dates Vera and Zelda to their semi-regular Greenwich Village hangout, Coffee A Go-Go, where Bernard the Poet is, ahem, “reciting his latest masterpiece.” The scene closes with Bobby creating the world’s first iced espresso.
5) Joe Staton
This entry is drawn by one of my all-time favorite artists, the amazing Joe Staton. “Vamfire” is a short story featuring E-Man and Nova Kane, the awesome characters created by Nicola “Nick” Cuti & Joe Staton at Charlton Comics in 1973. This story was originally planned for Charlton Bullseye in 1976. It did not see print until a decade later, in The Original E-Man and Michael Mauser #7 (April 1986) published by First Comics, who had the E-Man rights in the 1980s.
I’ve blogged at length about E-Manon several occasions. Suffice it to say, it’s an amazing series, with brilliantly humorous & heartfelt writing by Cuti and wonderfully imaginative artwork by Staton. This six page story introduces E-Man’s negative energy sister Vamfire, a sort of proto bad girl anti-hero who would reappear in later stories. “Vamfire” also introduces Nick and Joe’s Café, and Staton draws himself and Cuti as the proprietors. Nick and Joe’s Café would also return in later stories, with the running gag that their coffee was always terrible. Nevertheless they somehow managed to stay in business, no doubt due to being strategically located near Xanadu Universe in Manhattan, where innumerable sleep-deprived college & graduate students were desperate for a caffeine fix to keep them awake during the school’s interminable lectures.
Between 1941 and 1943 Klein was employed by Timely Comics, the precursor to Marvel. Creator credits in the Golden Age were often missing or inaccurate, but it is generally believed he worked on such titles as All-Winners Comics, Captain America Comics, USA Comics and Young Allies Comics at Timely.
In 1943 Klein was drafted to serve in World War II, and served as a private in the Army Infantry. Honorably discharged in 1946, Klein returned to his career as an artist, working in both comic books and as a magazine illustrator.
Several of the periodicals that Klein worked for, both before and after the war, were pulp magazines published by Timely’s owner Martin Goodman, specifically Best Love, Complete Sports, Complete War and Detective Short Stories. Klein was also a regular contributor to Wyoming Wildlife, the award-winning magazine published by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. His work in Wyoming Wildlife and other publications apparently gained Klein some renown as a landscape and wildlife artist.
Klein once again did work for Timely, or Atlas Comics as it came to be known in the 1950s. Among the various titles Klein worked on at Timely / Atlas in the late 40s and early 50s were the romance series Girl Comics and the well-regarded fantasy / romance series Venus, although (again due to the lack of credits) the exact details of his involvement are a matter of deduction and guesswork.
During this time Klein also branched out to work for other publishers such as ACG, Ace Comics and Prize Publications. By the early 1950s much of Klein’s work was for National Periodical Publications, aka DC Comics.
Beginning in 1955 Klein, working as an inker, was regularly paired up with penciler Curt Swan on DC’s various Superman titles. Looking at the Grand Comic Database, the first story drawn by the Swan & Klein team seems to be the Superboy story “The Wizard City” written by the legendary Bill Finger in Adventure Comics #216, cover-dated September 1955.
Swan and Klein continued to work together for the next 12 years, with their art appearing in various issues of Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Superman, Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.
Truthfully, Swan is a penciler who at times leaves me a bit cold. He’s one of those artists who I recognize as technically proficient, someone who is a good, solid storyteller. However often his work just does not connect with me personally. That said, there is something about the teaming of Swan and Klein that really appeals to me.
Having been born in 1976, obviously I did not read the stories they drew when they first came out. About 20 years ago I really got into the Legion of Super-Heroes and began picking up the various Legion Archives. I was immediately taken with the work that Swan & Klein on those Superboy and the Legion stories from Adventure Comics in the 1960s. I regard Klein as one of the best inkers Swan ever got during his lengthy career.
As per writer & editor Mark Waid’s bio of George Klein written for the Legion Archives:
“Klein set new standards for his craft with his razor-crisp brushline, which brought new dimensions to the art of Curt Swan, the penciler with whom Klein was most frequently paired. Together, Swan and Klein defined for years to come the look of Superman and his cast of characters; to this day , most Legion of Super-Heroes aficionados consider Swan and Klein to be the all-time finest Legion art team.”
Klein’s work over Swan’s pencils is an excellent demonstration of just how significant a role the inker can have on the look of the finished artwork in comic books.
Probably the stand-out stories of this era were written by the then-teenage Jim Shooter, who introduced Karate Kid, Princess Projecta and Ferro Lad to the Legion, as well as the villainous Fatal Five. Swan & Klein did a superb job illustrating these now-classic stories.
One cannot discuss Klein’s work in the Silver Age without mentioning Fantastic Four. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961, that title was the birth of what came to be known as the Marvel Universe. For many decades the specific details concerning the creation of the early FF stories have been shrouded in mystery.
“I would also conjecture that perhaps the choice of George Klein to ink these early issues–if indeed he was the inker as is generally believed today–was to try to give them more of a super hero feel than Kirby’s monster or romance or western work. Klein at the time was inking Curt Swan on Superman, and you really can’t get a more classic super hero finish than that.”
Absent the original artwork for those first two FF issues resurfacing, or some previous-unknown documentation being discovered, we will probably never be 100% certain; nevertheless, the general consensus is that Klein very likely inked those two issues, placing him right at the birth of the Marvel Age of Comics.
Klein’s work for DC on the Superman family of titles took place during the regime of editor Mort Weisinger. The late 1960s saw an editorial shake-up at DC. Although Weisinger remained in control of the Superman books until 1970, this behind-the-scenes instability is reportedly what led to Klein departing the company. He quickly found work at Marvel Comics which, eight years after the introduction of the Fantastic Four, was achieving both commercial success and critical acclaim.
Klein’s first assignment at Marvel was inking John Buscema’s pencils on Avengers. After inking a couple of covers, Klein became the regular inker with issue #55, cover-dated August 1968. Klein remained on Avengers for nearly a year.
Roy Thomas: So how did you feel about George Klein’s inking compared to some of the others?
John Buscema: From what I’ve seen, a very credible job, not bad.
Considering that Buscema was notoriously critical of most of the artists who inked his work, I suppose by his exacting standards this was high praise indeed!
Klein also inked Gene Colan on Avengers #63-64, Sub-Mariner #11, and on several issues of Daredevil. Klein was probably one of the best embellishers to ever work over Colan, who could often be a bit challenging to ink.
Additionally, in early 1969 Klein inked two very early jobs by a very young Barry Windsor-Smith, in Daredevil #51 and Avengers #67. Klein’s finishes gave some much-needed support to BWS who, although he was already showing quite a bit of promise, was still honing his craft.
Last, but certainly not least, Klein inked Jack Kirby on Thor #168-169, which were cover-dated Sept and Oct 1969. It has been opined that Vince Colletta’s inking of Kirby was a good match on Thor, as the feathery line work provided a specific tone that was well-suited to the mythological characters & settings. It was much less appropriate to Kirby’s sci-fi concepts, which is why Colletta was a poor fit on Fantastic Four.
Similarly, when Kirby took Thor in a more cosmic direction in the late 1960s, Colletta’s inking felt out of place. So it was definitely nice to have Klein’s more polished inking on these two issues, which saw the god of thunder learning the origin of one of Kirby’s most cosmic creations, Galactus. These Thor issues were very likely the last work that Klein did before his untimely death.
According to the Field Guide To Wild American Pulp Artists, Klein was hospitalized for cirrhosis of the liver in May 1969, less than a month before he died.
“It’s tragic that Klein passed away as young as he did — and the fact that he’d gotten married just a few months before makes it even more so. Unfortunately, his work over Curt Swan on the Superman books all those years was uncredited, and his subsequent stint at Marvel was too short for him to have made the impact of a Joe Sinnott or Tom Palmer. I agree he’s underrated.”
I really believe that Klein would probably be much better remembered as an artist if he had not died so young. He did very well-regarded work on comic books in a career that lasted nearly three decades.
The reissuing of so much of DC and Marvel’s material from the Silver Age does mean that younger fans such as myself have now been able to rediscover Klein’s work. Additionally, all these decades later Klein, as well as everyone else who worked on those early DC stories, are at long last receiving proper credit for their work in those reprint volumes.
There are so many creators from the Golden Age and early Silver Age who helped to make the comic book industry what it is today, creators who in the past were unfortunately uncredited and overlooked. I hope this short profile on one of those creators, George Klein, will inspire readers to seek out some of these classic stories, and to develop more of an appreciation for the people who crafted those imaginative tales.
Thank you to all of the websites from which I gleamed information about and artwork by George Klein. I believe I’ve included links to all of them, but if I did miss anyone please let me know!
I was saddened to learn that comic book artist, publisher & historian Greg Theakston had passed away on April 22nd. He was 65 years old.
As a teenager Theakston was involved in the Detroit area comic book fandom in the late 1960s and early 70s. During this time period he was one of the organizers of the Detroit Triple Fan Fair comic book & sci-fi conventions.
Theakston, along with such fellow Detroit area fans as Jim Starlin, Rich Buckler, Terry Austin, and Keith Pollard, made the jump from fan to professional during the 1970s. From 1972 to 1979 Theakston worked at Neal Adams’ Continuity Studios, where he gained invaluable experience, learning the tools of the trade alongside his contemporaries. Theakston was one of the so-called “Crusty Bunkers,” a loose-knit group of Continuity-based artists organized by Adams. Throughout the 1970s the Crusty Bunkers would pitch in to help one another meet tight comic book deadlines. Theakston was interviewed about his time at Continuity by Bryan Stroud, revealing it to be a crazy, colorful experience.
Theakston worked for a number of publishers over the years, creating illustrations for National Lampoon, Playboy, Rolling Stone and TV Guide. His art appeared in a number of issues of MAD Magazine in the late 1980s and throughout the 90s.
Most of Theakston’s comic book work was for DC Comics. In the 1980s Theakston was often assigned the high-profile job of inking the legendary Jack Kirby’s pencils.
Theakston’s inking of Kirby proved to be divisive. Personally speaking, as a huge fan of Kirby, I like what Theakston brought to the table. I do recognize that Theakston was not the ideal fit for Kirby’s pencils in the way that Joe Sinnott and Mike Royer were, but I nevertheless felt he did a good job inking him.
One of the things to recognize about that collaboration is that during this time Kirby’s health unfortunately began to decline. As a result his penciling started becoming loser. Theakston was often called upon to do a fair amount of work to tighten up the finished art. This led to some creative choices on his part that were not appreciated by some. I think Theakston was in a less-than-ideal situation, having to make those choices over the work of a creator who was already regarded by fans as a legend and a genius. The result was a scrutiny of his inking / finishing more much more intense than if he had been working with almost any other penciler.
Theakston inked Kirby on the first two Super Powers miniseries, the Hunger Dogs graphic novel that concluded the saga of Orion and the New Gods, various entries for Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, and the team-up of Superman and the Challengers of the Unknown in DC Comics Presents #84 written by Bob Rozakis.
I enjoyed Theakston’s work on these various titles. In my mind, the stunning cover painting for The Hunger Dogs featuring Darkseid that he did over Kirby’s pencils is one of the best pieces Theakston ever produced.
(Theakston’s inking on the Alex Toth pages in DC Comics Presents #84 was unfortunately much less impressive. In his defense I will say that when someone other than Toth himself inked his pencils, the majority of the time the results were underwhelming.)
Theakston also inked fellow Detroit native Arvell Jones’ pencils on Secret Origins #19 (Oct 1987). Roy Thomas’ story recounted, and expended upon, the origins of the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion, characters who had been created by Simon & Kirby in 1942. Given his fondness for the work of Simon & Kirby in the 1940s, it was entirely appropriate for Theakston to work on this story. His inking for it certainly evoked the feel of Golden Age comic book artwork.Theakston only worked for Marvel Comics on a couple of occasions. Early in his career he painted the cover for Planet of the Apes #9 (June 1975) in Marvel’s black & white magazine line. Almost a quarter century later Theakston painted a Kirby-inspired piece for the cover of the second Golden Age of Marvel Comics trade paperback (1999).
In 1975 Theakston founded the publishing company Pure Imagination. Under that imprint he issued collected editions featuring a variety of Golden Age stories & artwork by such creators as Kirby, Alex Toth, Lou Fine, Wallace Wood, and Basil Wolverton.
Theakston developed a process for reprinting comic books that DC editor Dick Giordano later referred to as “Theakstonizing.” As per What If Kirby, Theakstonizing “bleaches color from old comics pages, used in the restoration for reprinting.” Theakstonizing was used to publish a number of collections of Golden Age comic books in the 1980s and 90s, among these the early volumes of the DC Archives hardcovers. Unfortunately the Theakstonizing process resulted in the destruction of the original comic book itself. It’s a shame that so many old comics had to be destroyed to create the early DC Archives and other Golden Age reprints, but in those days before computer scanning that was the best way available to reproduce such old material. Additionally, as explained by Theakston’s ex-wife Nancy Danahy:
“Greg did everything to avoid destroying a valuable comic book for his Theakstonizing process. He would search for the ones with tattered, missing covers, or bent pages that devalued the book. It was only in a few instances that he used one in good condition, and only then if he knew the return on investment was worth it. He felt it would be better for the greater good to be able to share the work with more people than to let one book settle in a plastic bag on someone’s shelf.”
Beginning in 1987, Theakston also published the fan magazine The Betty Pages, dedicated to sexy pin-up model Bettie Page, of whom he was a huge fan. Theakston is considered to be one of the people who helped bring Page back into the public consciousness, resulting in her once again becoming an iconic figure of American pop culture. In the early 1990s Theakston conducted an extensive phone interview with Page that was published in The Betty Pages Annual Vol 2 in 1993.Theakston created several stunning, sexy paintings featuring Bettie Page. One of my favorites is a striking piece featuring Page in short leopard-skin dress, silhouetted against a giant blue moon in the sky behind her, with two leopards crouching at her feet. It saw print as the cover for The Betty Pages Annual Vol 2.
I thought Greg was a talented artist who created some very beautiful paintings and illustrations. All of my interactions with him were pleasant. I understand that over the years several others had much less amicable relations with him. Reportedly he was one of those people who could run very hot & cold, and that he was dealing with some personal issues.
Whatever the case, I do feel it’s unfortunate that Greg passed away. I know 65 is not young, but it’s not super-old either. Judging by the reactions I have seen over the past week, he will certainly be missed by quite a few people, myself included.
This week longtime comic book artist Joe Sinnott announced his retirement, bringing an official end to a career that spanned nearly seven decades, from 1950 to 2019.
With the recent passing of Marvel Comics writer & editor Stan Lee, the decision was made to bring down the curtain on the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper comic strip that he had been scripting since 1977. The 92 year old Sinnott, who has been inking the Sunday installments of the newspaper strip since 1992, decided this would be an appropriate time to formally retire.
Here is the Sunday March 17th installment of the newspaper strip. As I understand it, this was written by Roy Thomas, penciled by Alex Saviuk, inked by Joe Sinnott, and lettered by Janice Chiang. It’s a pleasant coda to the comic strip continuity with Peter and Mary-Jane Parker departing for a vacation in Australia. Since this is the wrap-up of the strip, I think we can safely assume that for once Peter and MJ will actually have a nice, relaxing time, and no super-villains will be following them Down Under.
Y’know, it’s funny… when the news broke that Sinnott was at long last calling it a day, the very first thing that popped into my mind was that he actually began the process of retiring back in 1991.
Sinnott’s last monthly assignment for Marvel Comics was Thor, inking / finishing the pencils of Ron Frenz for two and a half years, from issues #400 to #429. A few months after Sinnott’s final Thor issue, in the letters page of #433 (cover-dated June 1991), Frenz wrote a heartfelt tribute to his collaborator. Frenz explained that Sinnott was taking “his first steps towards a well-won and laurelled retirement.”
Well, it appears that Sinnott really enjoyed drawing, and possessed a genuine love for comic books, because it took him until now to finally retire. During the past 27 years, in addition to inking the Sunday installments of the Spider-Man strip, Sinnott contributed to several projects, among them the Marvel: Heroes & Legends special, the Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Comic Magazine miniseries, a pair of Untold Tales of Spider-Man annuals, and Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure.
Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure was published in 2008. It reconstructed & completed the long-lost “final” FF story that Kirby plotted & penciled way back in 1970 right before he departed Marvel for DC Comics. Nearly four decades later Stan Lee finally wrote the script for this story. Joe Sinnott’s embellishments had been an absolutely perfect match for the Fantastic Four stories Kirby penciled in the mid-1960s, so of course he was the first and only choice to ink this special.
It was always a pleasure to see Sinnott’s occasional returns to the comic book biz over the past two and a half decades. I regard him as one of the all-time greatest inkers / finishers in the history of the medium. His stellar work inking Kirby was just one part of his career. Over the decades Sinnott did superb work over numerous other pencilers, among them John Buscema, Rich Bucker, George Perez, Ron Wilson, John Byrne, and Ron Frenz.
Over the past decade Sinnott has also been very involved in Bob Almond’s Inkwell Awards. The “hall of fame” award the Inkwells give out is named, appropriately enough, the Sinnott.
I have been fortunate enough to meet Joe Sinnott at comic book conventions several times over the years. I can definitely tell you that his talent is matched by his kindness. Each time I met him he came across as polite, enthusiastic and gracious.
Above is a photo I took in 2011 of Joe Sinnott with another great creator, Walter Simonson, at the Hawthorne NJ comic con. It’s always awesome when you meet creators whose work you enjoy and you discover that they are also genuinely nice people.
Congratulations to Joe Sinnott on bringing to a close a long and distinguished career. I hope he enjoys his retirement, because he definitely deserves it.
Sal Buscema is one of my favorite comic book artists. This month, November 2018, is the 50th anniversary his professional debut.
Sal is the younger brother of artist John Buscema. While he was still working on honing his craft, Sal would occasionally do uncredited background inking on John’s artwork. In 1968 Sal finally felt he was ready to enter the comic book industry on his own, and brought sample pages to Marvel Comics. He was quickly hired by editor Stan Lee.
Sal’s very first credited work for Marvel Comics was on Rawhide Kid #68, inking Larry Lieber’s pencils. According to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, this issue went on sale on November 5, 1968.
Sal’s second job also came out that month, on November 19th. Silver Surfer #4 was penciled by his brother John. It is now well-known that John was often critical of inkers, believing that only a few really knew how to do his pencils justice. He would have preferred to do full artwork, pencils and inks, but time and financial constraints often prevented this. John, from having had Sal assist him in the past, knew that his brother would do a faithful job inking his pencils on this issue.
“The Good, The Bad, and the Uncanny” features an epic confrontation between the Surfer and Thor, who have been manipulated into combat by Loki. It is often regarded as one of the high points of John’s artistic career, and from all indications he was satisfied with Sal’s inks on it, as well as on the next three issues.
Sal had initially intended to focus on inking, but he was very quickly recruited by Marvel to pencil. He was immediately thrown into the deep end, assigned the team book Avengers. His first work was penciling the cover to issue #67, and a month later did the full interior pencils for #68, paired with writer Roy Thomas and inker Sam Grainger. The issue featured the Avengers in a titanic tussle with the diabolical robot Ultron.
Sal went on to have a very successful career in comics. He worked on nearly every Marvel title published in the 1970s and 80s. Beginning in the mid 1990s he also began working for several other publishers. Sal was blessed with speed, an incredible work ethic, and a strong sense of storytelling. This meant that he could always be relied upon to turn in a quality job on time.
Although officially retired, Sal continues to work in comic books, primarily as an inker, most often paired with penciler Ron Frenz, who he has inked on numerous occasions over the past two decades, on a long run on Spider-Girl, as well as several other series. Sal is also currently working with Guy Dorian Sr. on several projects. Among these was the Rom storyline “Battle Scars” which saw Sal’s return to the cult classic Space Knight.
For a really good, informative look at Sal’s career and artwork, I highly recommend the excellent book Sal Buscema: Comics’ Fast & Furious Artist by Jim Amash with Eric Nolen-Weathington, from TwoMorrows Publishing. The cover artwork is a wonderful showcase of Sal’s dynamic artwork, an explosive illustration by Sal of the Incredible Hulk and his longtime adversary the Abomination slugging it out.
I want to offer my congratulations to Sal Buscema on creating a half century of amazing comic book artwork. He has brought enjoyment to so many readers over the past five decades, myself included. Thanks, Sal!
Longtime comic book artist Marie Severin passed away on August 30 at the age of 89. Severin, a very talented artist who was possessed of a wonderful sense of humor, was one of the few women to work in the comic book industry in the 1950s and 60s.
Severin got her start in the 1950s as a colorist at EC Comics, where her brother, John Severin, was working as an artist. Following that, Severin began working at Marvel in the late 1950s. Initially working as a colorist and in the production department, in the mid 1960s she also began drawing for the House of Ideas.
Severin had a decidedly unconventional, often wacky style to her artwork. She also acknowledged that she really did not care all that much for super-heroes. That made her the perfect fit for Marvel’s outlier characters. She became only the third artist on the Doctor Strange feature in Strange Tales beginning with issue #153, cover-dated Feb 1967. Soon afterwards, Severin began drawing the adventures of Marvel’s two moody, violent anti-heroes, Namor the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk.
In the early 1970s Severin penciled several stories written by Roy Thomas featuring Robert E. Howard’s introspective warrior king Kull the Conqueror. On the Kull stories Severin was inked by her brother John, and it was a beautiful collaboration.
However, it was in the humor field that Severin really found her calling. Her style was perfectly suited for comedy, and for sending up the characters at Marvel and their competitors. Severin’s work appeared in all but one issue of Not Brand Echh, which ran for 13 issues in the late 1960s. All these years later the wacky, satirical stories from Not Brand Echh are well-remembered, in major part because of Severin’s distinctively crazy artwork.
I was born in 1976, so I only discovered Not Brand Echh years later via reprints. I think once I reached my 30s and started taking super-heroes a lot less seriously was when I finally began to really appreciate the parodies of the genre that Severin & her colleagues had done.
However, for the thoughts of someone who did read Not Brand Echh when it was being published, I recommend reading Alan Stewart’s blog Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books. Earlier this year Alan did a blog post looking back at Not Brand Echh #9. Severin’s drew the cover artwork for on Not Brand Echh #9 and penciled “Bet They’ll Be Battle!” featuring the Inedible Bulk and Prince No-More the Skunk-Mariner, a parody of the Hulk vs. Sub-Mariner story published in Tales to Astonish #100 a year and a half earlier, which Severin had also penciled.
Nevertheless, of the Not Brand Echh material I have seen via reprints, one of my favorite pieces is the satirical two page “How to Be a Comic Book Artist” vignette which Severin drew, and which she apparently also wrote and colored. It was originally published in Not Brand Echh #11 (Dec 1968). Here it is…
“How to Be a Comic Book Artist” always leaves me chuckling, especially the second panel on the first page. “Work in pleasant, inspiring surroundings – to keep your thoughts alive and creative!” Yes, yes… of course! 😛
I showed this two-pager to my girlfriend Michele, who is an artist. She shook her head and muttered, “Yeah, that sounds like everybody I know.”
Severin continued her humor work at Marvel in the 1970s, contributing to the short-lived color comics Spoof and Arrgh! and the long-running black & white Crazy Magazine. In the early 1990s she also drew a few stories for Marvel’s later-day humor comic What The–?!
Much of Severin’s work for Marvel in the 1980s and early 90s was on titles geared towards younger readers. Her artwork appeared in the Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock and Alf comic books. Once again, her style was very well-suited to that material.
On occasion Severin did return to straightforward super-heroes. In the mid 1990s she worked on a few stories during David Quinn’s memorable run writing Doctor Strange, doing nice work. I especially enjoyed her artwork on the Doctor Strange & Clea story that appeared in Midnight Sons Unlimited #6 (July 1994) which, although it was a mostly-serious tale, was drawn in a semi-cartoony style, and which had a fair amount of comedic background details, such as the depictions of late 1960s counter-culture elements.
I only met Severin once, briefly, at a comic book convention in June 2000. At the time the only book I had on hand which contained her work was the graphic novel Dignifying Science. Written by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by a talented line-up of female artists, Dignifying Science spotlighted several important female scientists. Severin drew the book’s prologue & epilogue, which touched upon the life of Marie Curie. I got my copy autographed by Severin. I wish I’d had some of the other books she worked on to also get signed, but at least I did get to meet her that one time.
Marie Severin had a very lengthy career in comic books as an artist and colorist, and I’ve only briefly touched upon a few highlights in this blog. For an in-depth examination of her career, I highly recommend the book Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics written by Dewey Cassell with Aaron Sultan from TwoMorrows Publishing. In addition, Severin was recently interviewed by Jon B. Cooke in Comic Book Creator #16 (Winter 2018) also from TwoMorrows. Please check them out.
One hundred years ago today, on August 28, 1917, Jacob Kurtzberg was born in the Lower East Side slums of New York City. Kurtzberg would grow up to become Jack Kirby, one of the most innovative, creative, prolific individuals to ever work within the comic book industry.
There is absolutely no way that I can do justice to the memory of Jack “King” Kirby, to the literal legion of amazing characters he created over the decades, in a single blog post. Entire books can, and have, been written about the man and his works. The Jack Kirby Collector, published by TwoMorrows, is a magazine devoted entirely to the life, work & legacy of Kirby, and it has been in continuous publication since 1994. If you do a Google search, you will find numerous other tributes to Kirby that have been prepared to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth.
If I had to pick one piece to which I would want to direct your attention, it would be “Kirby at 100” by Mark Evanier. A comic book writer & historian, Evanier worked as Kirby’s assistant in the early 1970s, and is one of the definitive authorities on the man.
It is very difficult to imagine what comic books would be like without Kirby, or even IF there would have been a comic book industry today without him. That is how incredibly important and influential he was.
Or, to put it another way, recently commenting on Facebook about Jack Kirby’s importance to the comic book biz, writer / artist Howard Chaykin bluntly stated “He’s why all of us have jobs, for fuck’s sake.”
To celebrate Kirby’s 100th birthday, I’ve begun re-reading (for the upteenth time) his astonishing “Fourth World” saga, beginning with New Gods. These stories were originally published by DC Comics in the early 1970s, and they are among my all-time favorite works by Kirby. Issue #7 of New Gods, “The Pact,” was once cited by Kirby himself as his favorite single issue that he ever created. It is indeed a magnum opus, at once both epic in scope and intimate in it’s tragedy, an examination of the terrible losses war inflicts, the corrupting influence of conflict upon even the best among us. The artwork by Kirby and inker Mike Royer is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.
Tonight I expect that I’ll dig out my copy of Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 3 and re-read the classic tale “This Man… This Monster!” Kirby, working with co-writer / editor Stan Lee and inker Joe Sinnott, produced Fantastic Four #51, one of the finest single issues of that series. One can endlessly debate “who did what” in the Lee/Kirby collaborations at Marvel Comics, but whatever the division of labor, there is no doubt that together the two men crafted some wonderful stories, including this one. That first page splash from FF #51 by Kirby & Sinnott of Ben Grimm, the Thing, standing forlornly in the pouring rain, is one of the most iconic images in the history of comic books.
Jack Kirby was a genius. As longtime comic book writer Roy Tomas observed today, “We’ll never see his like again. But then again why should we think we would? After all, we never saw his like BEFORE, either!”